Thursday, 28 December 2006
So our first Boxing Day here is a day to go down in our history... I stayed home and ... Brendon went out on a shopping spree. Now we have the Big Screen TV, along with a home theatre system and DVD player. Did I mention that Brendon was up and out at 5h30 to go shopping? Even I'm not that much of a shopaholic!!! Boxing Day sales here are practically an institution and stores open very early on Boxing Day with many "door crasher" specials.
The mild weather is holding up, and instead of a snowy Christmas, it's been mild and New Year's expected to be wet. I'm not complaining :)
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas !!
Monday, 18 December 2006
I saw a most amusing advert the other day, whereby children can send their letters to Santa to
And yes, he will reply if you put a return address. Canadian postal codes are of the format letter-number-letter number-letter-number, and the H0H 0H0 postal code has been especially reserved for Santa!
There are even radio stations dedicated to playing Christmas music. Not your traditional Christmas carol-type songs, but stuff like "Have yourself a merry little Christmas", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Being such a diverse and multi-cultural country, everyone is very mindful of the various religious practices, and refer to the "Holidays" instead of "Christmas." In fact, there is a big hoo-ha at the moment regarding an Ontario judge who ordered the removal of a Christmas tree from the courthouse lobby as it may offend non-Christian visitors.
Speaking of trees, we have our very first "live" Christmas tree (it's a pine tree) which we decorated this weekend in my favourite (and of course seasonal) colour of red.
We have also "made" (i.e. put together) a Christmas wreath to hang on our front door, to get in to the Christmas spirit - feeling a bit left out, since most of our neighbours have wreaths up too.
The Canadians really do go all out for Christmas - we took a drive through the neighbourhood last night, and here are some pictures of the Christmas lights to be seen!
we will not be having a white Christmas after all. The first light snowfalls on the first of the month have given way to moderate and mild weather, averaging 7C during the day. Even I can say that the weather is pleasant ;) and about the same as a Joburg winter. Today it is 6C, but overcast. The radio presenter this morning said, "That's 6 degrees warmer than it should be this time of year."
For those of you that are wondering, no I did not pass my driver's test... waaah.
So much for hoping for an easier test by selecting an early morning time slot. The highway traffic was moving, but certainly not free flowing and that made it more difficult. I was severely penalised for slowing down on the expressway. [For those of you that have ever driven with me... yes, can you believe it... me driving too slow!] Anyway, apparently this is a traffic violation here - "slowing down on the highway and causing other vehicles behind you to also slow down is dangerous." The point was - I was asked to change lanes (back in to the slow right-hand lane) and the catch-22 was to either slow down to get behind a slower moving vehicle or speed up (i.e. exceed the speed limit) to pass him and then move over. Sigh.
The next earliest available appointment that I could book online was January 16, so I guess I"ll try again then. In the meantime, Brendon (who did pass his test) will just have to be my chauffeur ;)
The Nando's on Eglinton Avenue has now opened for business, and of course we had to go and check it out. It was *really* good, although the "Lemon and Herb" is what I would classify as "Mild" - so put another way, it's like the Fordsburg Nando's ;) So no, there are no kid's meals! I'm just happy that they sell Perinaise (although they call it Peri dip.)
That's all for now... Have a great Christmas long weekend, and I'll hopefully be able to post another update before the new year.
Monday, 4 December 2006
Vancouver and Western Canada have been snowed under last week - 20-30 cms of snow, power outages, water outages. Toronto and Southern Ontario have been having mild, pleasant weather. And people wondered why we chose Toronto instead of Vancouver... Okay, admittedly that was unusual weather especially for Toronto at this time of the year. What can I say... I whined enough so Someone Up There must have heard me ;) Last week was wonderfully mild in terms of weather, peaking 15C on Thursday, although it was overcast and raining.
However, now Winter Has Arrived, and we are seeing flurries almost every day, and light snow overnight. Temperatures are max -1C. Still not too bad, but with wind chill, it feels about -10C ... so says theweathernetwork.com. Me... I think anything below 5C is freezing cold, so now it's just extremes of coldest, even-more-than-coldest and freaking-cold! Gee, I can't wait till February :-D
It snowed on Friday night - nothing heavy, just enough to make everything white and pretty for when we woke up in the morning. It had all melted by noon though.
Looks like I'll be doing my driver's test in the snow at peak hour traffic next week. Not sure how they are going to test my highway on- and off-ramp skills in those conditions! So in terms of this, we have rented a car again, and as luck would have it, we managed to get a Nissan Versa (called the Tiida in SA) for the week! So now we are doing the ultimate test drive. After driving it for three days though, we have pretty much made up our minds that we do like it, and it is high on our list for our first Canadian vehicle purchase.
...My First Tip Slip!
It's different to SA in that we are paid bi-monthly (every two weeks) instead of monthly. So I got that first Canadian payslip last week Thursday... wow, tax deductions, the root of all payday evils. So I'll try not to spend what I do get all in one place ;) At least not until the big Winter sales begin!
... Christmas Shopping Hours
The stores are now pretty open "late". Considering that normal shopping hours are until 21h00 weeknights, this means that stores are now open until 22h00 or 23h00. Everywhere is bedecked with Christmas decorations and goodies... at least now it makes "sense" to see winterised Christmas decor ;-) I must say, the Canadians really take to Christmas decorating with much aplomb: houses have been draped with Christmas lights (hung up before the cold weather arrived), and lawns displaying reindeer, snowmen and Santa Claus in bright lights. This makes for festive viewing (and distraction) when driving along the suburban roads at night.
Not much else to update on, now that I am working the days are flying by ... back to the drone of daily life :)
Thursday, 23 November 2006
There is parking underground, with some storage lockers available, too. The big draw here is that they allow pets - in fact, some residents have some pretty large dogs! So early every morning and late every evening you will see people walking their dogs.
It's very central and relatively new - they are still building more units for Spring (April 2007) occupation.
We are currently renting on the middle floor, and the bonus here is that you get all the major appliances included in the rental (refrigerator, stove, washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher).
Wednesday, 22 November 2006
So it's been four days on the job, and it's very similar to my (previous) job. Similar type of people that I work with, similar culture and similar work :-) The main difference is that it is more software support, rather than network/ WAN support. And just on a smaller scale, reminding me of how IS was when I first started there in 1999. The office here has about 68 people in Toronto, of which I have 11 support 'associates', 2 team leaders, one trainer and one documentation person reporting to me. I also have 4 staff members in New Delhi, India - 1 team leader and 3 support associates - to provide local support there.
[To my ex-colleagues: yes, I have a team of 14 and a dedicated trainer . On the flip side, we're also 24x7 with such a small team! The graveyard rotation is every 6 weeks. You will also be really glad to know that there are the same old issues to deal with - to name a few: motivating and retaining staff, sorting out graveyard shifts, training of newbies, lack of KB and process documentation, 'defending' support staff from Dev/Ops when they don't respond to escalations... So similar to IS it's freaky. As with the GSC, we are busy with investigating a new telephone system with Call Centre stats and reporting, and company-wide they want to implement a CRM system to get a single view of the customer. It gets even scarier - they don't have a proper document library that everyone uses, and their Ops (Infrastructure and Sys Admin teams) just unofficially launched an internal Wiki. Hell, we even use the same Cisco IP phones! Hehe it's almost like I never left my old job :-P ]
I have been taking it relatively easy so far - my boss is on leave until the end of the month, but at least I have my predecessor to work with until then. Quite a laidback culture, everyone is really friendly, and I still get to work flexi-time - generally getting to the office before 10h00, and leaving just after 18h00. The workforce here is *very* diverse - people from all different countries work here, many Chinese, Indian, European - oh yeah, and some Canadians haha. I'm the only South African though :-)
We also have an office near Pennsylvania in the US, and I was told I will probably need to go down there to meet everyone. The big catch of course, is that I have to get a US visa first. Because of September 11, the whole visa process was changed, and you first need to book an appointment to process your visa. Unbelievable - the waiting time for the Toronto consulate is.... 71 days, with 1 day processing time. What this means is that the earliest appointment I could get was 29 January 2007...! It would be faster for me to fly back to SA and get it there, since the waiting time in Joburg is 9 days, with 2 days for processing. And what a money-making exercise - it cost me $9.50 (and I'm not even sure if that's Canadian or US dollars!) to book the appointment, and I still need to pay US$100 for the actual visa.
The workload is a bit overwhelming at the moment - trying to get up-to-speed on many levels up and down from me: getting to know my staff and team leaders, getting to know the company and its products, and getting up-to-speed with projects that I need to be involved with as a manager.
I have my own office over looking Yonge street (this is the main street in Toronto which the main subway line runs under, and it is the longest street in the world ). The only disadvantage of the office is that all the windows makes it cold! On the flip side, at least I get some natural light, which I never did get at my previous desk.
It is getting bloody cold here. Mornings it's about 0C, reaching 5C at noon... brrr. Sunday night there were flurries (light snow that melts before it hits the ground). The forecast shows it should get a bit warmer (10C high) Thursday and Friday and the weekend, but after that.... we are looking at minus temperatures by next weekend :-( The homes, offices, malls, buses - everything - here are heated and it does make things easier. So it's just the short walks that I need to suffer through for now. It's actually kind of annoying because you bundle up like mad for the walk to the bus stop, and then when you get on the bus you are boiling hot 'cos it's heated so much Same thing with entering malls and offices - they blast you with heat as you enter the door - so you really do need to have one big heavy coat which you can take off once you get inside.
Theoretically (and by SA standards), I am really close to work - about 8 kms. By bus and subway, it takes about 40 minutes. 5 minutes walking from house to bus stop, 15 minutes on bus to subway, 10 mins on subway, then 5 mins walk to office. Hopefully hubby and I will get to drive together to work once we get our licences and a car. He works literally down the street, about 5 kms away.
Speaking of driving licences, we have booked our road tests for 7 (me) and 8 (hubby) December - these being the earliest dates we could get. Judging from weather forecasts, it will probably be snowing then... sigh. Anyway, apparently that makes the test 'easier' since you can drive as slowly as you want because of the weather conditions.
We have been looking at cars - there are so many options, and we are now considering a slightly 'bigger' car, since we'll only have one to share, and it is intimidating driving a 'small' car when all around you have huge mini-vans and SUV's!! We will probably only buy next month, when dealers - in year-end sales desperation - will give us a better deal ;) There are also a few new 2006 models left that will hopefully be a lot cheaper. It's weird here - they started selling 2007 model cars in August already!
Everything from our container arrived in perfect condition, nothing broken or damaged - it's good to have familiar stuff around us again. Our kitchen cupboards are now completely full!
On a lighter note, they are opening a Nando's near our house - right by the bus stop. It's being fitted at the moment and there are 'now hiring' signs up - not sure when they'll open for business though. LOL. Guess we'll just *have* to go see if it's the same as the SA ones ;)
That's all the news for now...
Wednesday, 15 November 2006
- Our stuff in the container has arrived! Everything is now pretty much moved and sorted, piano included
- I am finally gainfully employed... my first day is tomorrow (Thursday) as Technical Support Manager at Company A (the Domain Registry).
Finally... I can now hopefully settle in to some sort of a routine. After everything has been unpacked and put neatly away, I'll send some photos of the place.
Must get to bed now, as I start my new job in a few hours!!
Wednesday, 25 October 2006
So last week Friday (27 October) we rented a car for the weekend. We have found a car rental company that has a weekend special, which is 50% off car rentals from Friday to Monday. After insurance and everything, it works out to about $120 (R780). Thus we can 'practise' driving and parking on the weekends. So when driving around, keep repeating the mantra "stick to the right". "Stick to the right" It's not as bad as I thought it would be. When there are other cars around, it's actually easier. When you're alone on the road or on a one-way street, it's easy to forget that important rule ;)
The graduated licensing here means you write a test, get a G1 licence - which is like a SA Learner's licence. You then do a "city road test" which will give you a G2 licence. You then do a "highway road test" in order to get a full driver's licence. The catch is that you have to wait a year between road tests. So, for foreigners (who can drive) to bypass this waiting period, you need to prove you have more than 3 years driving experience in the past 4 years.
After a few e-mails, we managed to get the Dept of Transport to send us the required letters. We submitted our letters f this week, which means we have our 10+ years of previous driving experience added to the Canadian system. We've booked a car again for this weekend. Hopefully we'll be able to go for our actual road test in the next week or so, then we'll have "full" G-class driving licences.
I went for another interview at Company B on Wednesday morning. Have still not heard from Company A. Hopefully Company B will make an offer, then I can perhaps push Company A for an offer, too.
The weather improved slightly - Monday and Tuesday was quite warm (averaging about 12C during the day). Tuesday was Halloween - it's amazing what a special 'holiday' this is here. People really do make an effort of decorating their homes. Not to mention the kids - the little ones are really cute with their outfits. Methinks the bigger kids do an easy costume i.e. just don a black cloak and mask - just for the opportunity to get free candy (sweets) ;)
I've caught a cold and have had the sniffles this whole week. It's gotten cold again today (Friday's forecast is 4C) but expected to warm up to 10C again on Monday. Oh well, at least I have cable, PVR and broadband to keep me entertained while I'm at home recovering.
Not much happening on the job hunting side of things...
I've been interviewing at one place (Company A, a Domain Registry) since I arrived here, and have seen a ton of people - spending about 6 hours in their offices and 3 hours on phone interviews. I spoke to the VP of Business Operations on Monday. Apparently he's quite 'high up' and the last in the line of interviews. So hopefully things will start happening now.
I have also been interviewed at another place (Company B, a web, mail and application hosting company ) last week Friday. They said they'd get back to me "in a few weeks" - their job is a one year contract though (filling in for someone who is going on maternity leave - yes, maternity leave here is one year!), so the first company is the preferred employer right now.
I've heard that Canadian companies are like this with recruitment... i.e take their sweet time, so I'm not worried just yet. Had a recruitment agency call me on Monday as well, so at least I know that people are seeing my CV/resume online.
So I went to do my written driver's licence test today - you get a G1 licence after the written, and a full G class licence after you pass the road test.
What a world of difference to SA - no need to book, just pitch up and go write. Took me 25 mins to wait in the information queue, another 15 mins to explain my story re: converting my SA licence and then 5 minutes to do vision test, take photo and pay. Walked in to the written test section, handed in my receipt, got asked what language I want the test paper in (darn... their computers were down, so no electronic test).
40 multiple choice questions which I did in 8 minutes flat. They marked it in 5, gave me a temp paper licence and that was it! My driver's licence card will be posted to me. So all in all, took me about an hour. Wow!
Quite sad, you have to get 16/40 to pass. I'm pleased to say I got 39/40 (I got one of the signs wrong... darn). And I studied for two whole days for that!!!
Now we have to go rent a car, practice driving and parking, then schedule the road test and we'll be on our way to being fully licenced. Then comes the next big purchase of a car (finally), but probably a better idea to wait until I at least get a job.
I must say, we have managed fine so far without a car - it's just a major pain carrying heavy grocery bags but you get used to it. In fact, it's probably less effort than finding parking and driving in Toronto traffic. Yes, traffic here *everywhere* is worse than William Nicol off and onramp to the N1 highway... Some times it's just easier to hop on a bus 'cos at least public transport works here.
We are busy trying to finalise the sale of our SA house - we need to sign and return courier the docs to the lawyers, but we need to get affidavits signed and some of the docs notarised. Man, is that a money-making scheme here. In SA you just go to the cop shop to get it done. Here, you have to find a comissioner of oaths (called a Notary Public here). This is mostly lawyers/ soliciters/ barristers... and guess what, they all charge a small fortune for the service. Something silly like $49 for the first document, then $19 for any subsequent ones in the same appointment (yes you have to make an appointment far in advance too). And this is all excluding tax... so add 14%, then convert to Rands at 6.7 and see how much they make just for signing and stamping a piece of paper in 15 minutes. Anyway, we will have to make a plan.
It's also getting pretty darn cold here (ok ok that's cold for *me*!) ... averages about 7C in the day, with rain and light snow flurries in the afternoon. There was a major snowstorm south of the province (near the US border and Niagara) two weeks ago - knocked out all electricity, they are just getting back online this week. The cold is not so bad, until the wind starts blowing *through* you. That's the part which I have yet to get used to. Right now I can't imagine what December is going to be like... I make a point of going out every day - if not for the fact that I'll go crazy if I just sit at home all the time, I figure I had better just acclimatise slowly. Darn, I hear you guys in SA are in a heatwave of 30C? If you want to be scared, check the weather at http://www.weathernetwork.com
Ok, so much for short and sweet - guess I had more news than I realised. Hey at least I type as fast as I think ;) Will update again soon... I'll try for once a week at least.
Saturday, 23 September 2006
Brendon has been a PR since July 2002, but we were married in SA on 6 March 2004.
Hence, I did not automatically receive PR but he has to sponsor me.
He returned to Canada 19 January 2006.
Sponsorship application sent in and received (all fees paid and medicals done upfront) 20 January 2006.
Started processing sponsorship 6 March 2006 (yes, ironically on our anniversary)
Sponsorship approved 19 May 2006.
Sponsorship applications are usually quick to process. At the time of submission, it was published as 45 days to process. Apparently in our case, it took so long to approve because as a PR who had been outside of Canada for so many months, they had to first check that he still met his residency requirements.
My PR papers arrived at the Canadian High Commission (CHC) Pretoria 24 May 2006.
CHC started processing my PR application on 31 May 2006.
PR approved 27 July 2006.
Passport submitted to CHC 25 August 2006.
Passport returned 7 September 2006.
All in all, a very efficient process once the application reached CHC Pretoria.
Then finally... on eCAS:
"You entered Canada at the Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Terminal No. 3 office on September 22, 2006 and became a Permanent Resident. "
Sunday, 17 September 2006
Here are some photos!
Jason and Shirley's wedding on 10 September in Johannesburg, South Africa.
See more pics at http://jasonandshirley.sunshine.za.net/
Nadia and Rob's wedding in Dubrovnik, Croatia on 16 September.
See more pics at http://www.robandnadia.com/
Tuesday, 8 August 2006
She was recently chosen for the print-ads for SickKids hospital, which is funded purely by donations.
Here are some photos of her at the hospital, and the print ad that will be published in magazines across Canada in October/ November.
See Caitlin's profile on the Sick Kids website
Monday, 7 August 2006
The houses here are relatively new - mainly new developments...
There is no work for architects here - the developers design a few houses, and then mass produce. This pretty much makes for surreal-ville.
This particular neighbourhood is a big circle around a public park, with swings, slides, roundabouts etc, and a baseball diamond. It's very common in the summer time, to see the neighbourhood kids playing until 20h30.
This is the family's backyard. As you can see, the lots are very close and the backyards are pretty small. Guess it's less maintenance with regards mowing, raking and snow-shovelling!
These are the nieces. My brother-in-law's daughters on the right and middle, cousin's daughter on the left.
Friday, 4 August 2006
Scarborough is east of Toronto, and it takes me about an hour by public transport to get to downtown Toronto.
Scarborough is said to be one of the leafiest parts of Toronto:
This area is one of the older areas, so trees are fully grown, houses are of older design
This road is one of the newer parts of the suburb - as you can see by the small trees!
Houses are pretty close to each other here, and very similar in design. Mostly two storeys and NO FENCES!
Tuesday, 1 August 2006
Sunday, 30 July 2006
"By the middle of last week, 41 people had been slain on the streets of Toronto so far this year - 20 as the result of gun violence." Torontosun.canoe.ca, Sunday July 23, 2006
There was a newspaper article this past weekend regarding the increase in carjacking in one of Toronto's regions, York (which is comparable to Sandton). 12 cars hijacked this year so far...
Here is the (single) crime report page from that newspaper.
Sigh. Reading the article, all I can say is, South African criminals have superior methods and are more ... creative... in their criminal activities.
Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Sales are true sales here... up to 75% off.
24 hour stores allow for late night grocery shopping... woohooo.
Standard business hours:
Certain banks are open late here, till 20h00.
As a South African, the most amazing thing is that there are no bullet-proof glass windows separating you and the teller! No heavily-armed security guards patrolling the entrances, no double-door entry system either.
In fact, security at the movie theatres is more hectic than at the banks!
Speaking of movies... it is *really* expensive to go to movies here. Especially compared to Discovery Vitality R14 movies ;)
$10.95 + tax = R77 a ticket!! After R14 Discovery Vitality movies, I feel ripped off.
DVD's here cost $24 (R169). No brainer. Hell, with high-speed Internet access, no wonder there's a piracy problem...
Tuesday, 25 July 2006
And of course following the Soccer World Cup, some Italian pride too ;)
Canadian humour can be quite ... interesting. Roots is the national clothing brand, kind of like Mad Dogs I guess. They are currently having their Big Beaver sale.
Monday, 24 July 2006
Everywhere have recycling bins - even the public ones on the street.
Here, they will take away anything you leave on the sidewalk. Saw someone dispose of their bicycle, and once before a bar fridge! I wish I had my camera, but unfortunately did not.
Saw this monitor and keyboard on the sidewalk downtown:
Saturday, 22 July 2006
So I ordered a Caramilk McFlurry at McDonalds the other day and got a caramel sundae. Hehe, not quite sure if it was my accent or an inattentive server!
Some more terms I've had to learn...
Cooldrinks/ fizzy drinks are called pop (i.e. Coke, Sprite, etc)
Prams are called strollers
Pavements are called sidewalks
Serviettes are called napkins
Shops are called stores
Jelly is jello
I have heard so many different languages heard around here.. in fact, I think the only time I have heard the second official language of French was at the airport. So many people asked if I was going to learn to speak French - well, I think I would do better to learn Mandarin there are so many Mandarin speakers here.
The cosmopolitan nature of Toronto is so aptly pictured here - one neighbourhood shopping block has such a variety of cultures... from Chinese to Indian to Middle-Eastern
Thursday, 20 July 2006
Is this enough to make you sick... It costs $49.95 per month, which is about R350!
Modem set-up of up to 6.0 Mbps download and 800 Kbps upload.
I'm not even going to say anymore except that companies don't have problems with employee Internet abuse here - it's quicker to download from home than to abuse company resources.
Tuesday, 18 July 2006
The subway here is easier than London - the system is a U with a line through it. The stations are named after the intersections, so looking at a street map, it's easy to relate to where you are.
Buses generally run east to west or north to south. Tokens costs $2.10 (about R13) and this can take you from one end of Toronto to the other. You just deposit a token when you board the bus, and get a transfer (paper slip indicating time and date and something or the other relating to the bus you're on) and this will allow you to board another bus without further payment, as long as you're not travelling backwards on your route.
Alternatively, you can buy unlimited weekly or monthly passes that allow you to use all systems (buses, subway, streetcars, light rail transport) on the TTC. A monthly pass is $100 (about R620) which is worth it considering the price of petrol.
The buses run frequently, and I've never had to wait more than 8 minutes for a bus. It is quite conceivable that you can get around without a car here.